The perfect catch is crisp. Then you must “stay connected,” pulling your blades evenly and with steady pressure through the water. If you do, you’ll feel power flow from you through the blades to the boat. If not, you’ll either wash out (i.e., the blades come out of the water mid-stroke), or you’ll go too deep. Either way, you’ll rock the boat (literally).

As management accounting and finance professionals, we must also strive for the “perfect catch” and “staying connected.” Specifically, we should prioritize meeting new people and expanding our network (the “perfect catch”) and then building and strengthening these relationships over time (“staying connected”). It starts in college, when we have the opportunity to establish lifetime bonds with peers and professors. Throughout our career, we’ll engage with many people, including team members, cross-functional partners, vendors, customers, and others. Each contact could become a strong professional ally, even a friend. We can also expand our network by joining professional associations such as IMA®, volunteering at other nonprofit organizations, and enjoying our hobbies. By making and deepening relationships over time, we increase the probability of professional success and personal happiness.

I’ve seen firsthand the power of relationships in action. Shortly before leaving Campbell Soup Company, I knew I was ready for a change, but a change to what? To answer this question, I tapped into my network of IMA friends. They were CFOs, CEOs, consultants, and board directors. They represented a mix of industries and public, private, and nonprofit organizations. By learning about their career journeys, I clarified that my career goal was to become CFO of a small to midsize private company. These friends also helped prepare me for the search process, providing advice on my résumé, my “elevator speech,” and how to prepare for interviews. Their input was invaluable.

While I was tapping into my IMA network, I also was focused on developing my professional network in northwest Ohio. Our kids were entering high school, so my wife and I didn’t want to relocate. Then, one day, I received an out-of-the-blue call from the chair of the PTI Group of Companies. She said they needed a CFO, and someone recommended that she talk to me. After I was hired, I learned that four others in my network also had recommended me and that I was the only candidate considered. Relationships matter!

As an IMA member, you have access to a network of nearly 140,000 professionals around the world. I encourage you to leverage this network. Using LinkedIn is a great way to do so. When sending an invitation, though, I strongly recommend adding a personal message (e.g., “Steve, I saw your column in SF, and I’d love to connect”). Doing so is best practice. So, work on that perfect catch and staying connected!

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